Second-Year Law Student Jackson Bednarczyk Wins 2024 Richard Grand Legal Writing Competition

Feb. 22, 2024
Jackson Bednarczyk

A self-proclaimed "merchant of words," Richard Grand (’58) was known for offering pithy advice to law students on the practice of law and on life. During his lifetime, the advertisements for the Richard Grand Legal Writing Competition and the Richard Grand Damages Argument Competition at the University of Arizona College of Law often included his advice, published as “Thoughts for Law Students.” Some of these thoughts were published in his obituary and ranged from “If you don’t like learning, don’t become a lawyer” to “sit on a hard chair and sweat.”  The importance of sharing advice with those who come after us framed the theme for this year’s Richard Grand Legal Writing Competition. 

“As we were thinking about the theme for the competition this year, we were reflecting on the advice that we would give our younger selves,” said Assistant Director of Legal Writing and Clinical Professor of Law Tessa Dysart. “Students face such a steep learning curve in law school—from learning how to survive the intense three years to mastering difficult legal concepts. We thought it would be interesting to see what advice students would give their future selves.” 

Students were asked to write a personal essay that included advice to a future student in their degree program. Over 30 students submitted essays. 

“The entries this year were quite varied,” said Dysart. “Some entries read like literal advice letters, while others shared a personal narrative and tied it into law school success. We even received an entry in verse!” 

Second-year law student Jackson Bednarczyk placed first with his moving essay on advice and lessons learned from his late father, focusing on the importance of never giving up. In a rare three-way tie, three third-year students placed second.   

The three additional finalists were:     

  • Katherine Barnett (3L) —Second Place   

  • Jade DuBroy (3L) —Second Place   

  • Allison Weber (3L) —Second Place   

The following is the redacted version of the winning essay: 

“I am so proud of who you are.” 

Dear future 1L, 

“Keep cheering for the Yankees. They may be down, but they’re never out!” 

 In 2013, there was an ESPN 30 for 30 (sports documentary) called “Survive and Advance” that came out. It chronicled the miraculous 1982–83 championship run of the North Carolina State men’s basketball team, paying close attention to their head coach, Jim Valvano. After his coaching career ended, Valvano was diagnosed with cancer. In 1993, he was given the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at an annual sports award ceremony. During his rousing acceptance speech, the terminally ill Valvano had this to say: “Don’t give up … Don’t ever give up.” Valvano would pass away less than two months later. 

For some reason, that quote always stuck with me. Don’t give up … Don’t ever give up. The image of the weak, cancer-stricken Valvano moving an entire crowd. Don’t give up … Don’t ever give up. His strength to keep fighting and to inspire others until the very end. Don’t give up … Don’t ever give up. 

That’s something that I try to live by every day. Law school, besides the hiring process, is challenging. Everything is new—new writing style, new subjects, new people, new places. There will be people who seem like they have everything figured out. From day one, they know exactly what they want to specialize in. There will be people who seem like they have a massive head start. Their dad works at a big law firm, or they used to be a paralegal. 

But here’s the secret: no one has it all figured out. At least I don’t, and the people I’m close with don’t. Unfortunately, you can’t control other people’s expectations and perceptions and appearances. But what you can control is yourself. You control your effort, your attitude, and your interests. That’s easier said than done, but it’s true, and you have to believe it. When things get hard, block out the noise, believe in yourself, and don’t give up… don’t ever give up. 

“I will be there in spirit … in your heart. I’ll always be alive in your heart. Hold me close, as I will hold you close, my beautiful, amazing son.” 

At this point, you’re probably wondering, what the hell are all these random quotes? Well, I’ll tell you. 

 On November 16, 2008, my dad passed away from colon cancer. It was a multi-year battle. He fought as hard as he could, but in the end, it got him. I don’t say he lost the battle because he never gave up. 

He was the best dad a boy could hope for. He worked hard to give us the life he never had. His mom, my abuela, was a migrant farm worker from Mexico. She and my grandpa were in the military and constantly moved around the country and even the world. Dad was the first in his family to go to college. He went to Texas Tech University because it was close to where they lived at the time, but he always said he wanted my siblings and me to go to Stanford. 

Dad taught me how to play baseball. He was a lifelong New York Yankees fan (make sense now?), and it made him so happy that my younger brother and I loved the Yankees too. They won their last World Series Championship the year after he passed. It would have been so cool to share that with him. 

 I’ll never forget when he yelled at my little league coach for not playing me enough in games. Looking back, he was probably a little out of line, but it still makes me smile thinking about how much he cared about me. 

I would do anything to see him just one more time. Sometimes it’s hard to remember his face, his eyes, his smile. It’s especially hard to remember his voice. People who knew him often say that I look just like him, and that’s hard too. 

Before he passed, he wrote letters for my little sister, my little brother, and me. The quotes that I have included here are from his letter. Every time I read them, I can’t help my eyes from welling up with tears. I feel like I have a golf ball in my throat. There’s so much I wish I could say and do, but I can’t. He feels so far away. 

At the same time, that letter makes so many good memories come flowing back. Like our trips to New York and Disney World and San Destin, or swimming in our pool, or picking out a present for my sister when she was born, or Christmas morning when he gave me an iPod loaded with all his favorite songs. Then I realize he’s not so far away. He’s been right here all along in my heart, just like he said. 

His memory reminds me that there are so many more important things than going to law school or becoming a lawyer. There are so many people who love us unconditionally—whether or not we get A’s in Constitutional Law won’t change that. There are so many people who have sacrificed so much for us to be where we are now. We must not forget them, for they matter more than anything. 


Everything that I do, I do for my dad. I do it for his legacy. I do it because, no matter what, he is proud of me; he never gave up on me or my family; he shaped me into the man I am today; and he will never leave me.  

Judges for this year's competition were:   

  • Judge Michael Catlett, Arizona Court of Appeals Division 1  

  • Judge Kellie Johnson, Pima County Superior Court 

  • Amy Knight, Lawyer and novelist 

  • Judge Ron Newman, Pima County Consolidated Justice Court’s Evictions Specialty Court 

  • Mikel Steinfeld, Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office 

About Richard Grand   

The Richard Grand Legal Writing Competition was created by the late Richard Grand, a 1958 alumnus of University of Arizona Law who drew inspiration from art throughout his life and legal career. He often compared closing arguments to jazz, and he likened the “spark” great actors light in the imaginations of a theater audience to the connection a skilled trial lawyer has with a jury.  

An immigrant who arrived at Ellis Island in 1939 at the age of nine, Grand did not speak a word of English, but he soon grew into a self-proclaimed "merchant of words." Grand began his practice as a deputy county attorney. After that, his practice was limited to representing plaintiffs. On more than 100 occasions, he obtained either a verdict or settlement in excess of $1 million.   

In 1972, Richard Grand founded the Inner Circle of Advocates, which is limited to 100 lawyers in the United States who have completed at least 50 personal injury trials and have at least three verdicts in excess of $1 million for compensatory damages. The Inner Circle still exists today.